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VALLEY FOCUS | Sherman Oaks

Council to Consider Purchase of 80 Acres

January 28, 1998|TOM BECKER

The City Council may end a 20-year controversy concerning the development of 80 acres in the Santa Monica Mountains.

The council is expected to vote in February on an amendment to its annual Proposition K budget that would allow the city to purchase the land known as the Deervale-Stone Canyon development. If approved, the amended version would include a $4-million expenditure to purchase the land, according to an aide to Councilman Mike Feuer.

Each year, the council creates a budget outlining its expenditures for $25-million worth of Proposition K grant funds from the county. This year's budget was created before the land was appraised and allowed for just a $1-million expenditure to purchase the land. Once the development was valued at $4 million, council members, urged by conservancy groups, decided to vote on the amendment.

The 80 acres of tree-lined parkland are on a steep, rocky portion of the Santa Monica Mountains overlooking the San Fernando Valley.

Since 1978, developers have tried to obtain permission to construct housing on the site. Some plans have called for homes that would sell for as much as $3 million and offer incredible views.

Each attempt has been met with intense opposition from various homeowners and conservancy groups determined to preserve one of the largest tracts of undeveloped land in the Valley.

As recently as 1996, owner Kenneth Chang submitted a proposal to develop the land located just below Mulholland Drive and between Stone Canyon Avenue and Deervale Place. The plan was later denied. Last year, the council demonstrated its willingness to preserve the land when it made the tract a high priority on its list of projects eligible for the Proposition K grants.

The scheduled vote has development opponents optimistic.

"I'm very encouraged that Councilman Feuer has made this such a high priority," said Joseph Edmiston, executive director of the Malibu-based Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. "The city has an opportunity to preserve one of the last undeveloped areas of the Valley."

Sharon Mayer, chief field deputy for Feuer's office, said if the city is able to purchase the land, it will probably open it for passive recreation such as hiking.

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